Report of Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr,
U.S. Army, commanding Second Division.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43] -- Gettysburg Campaign
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, ELEVENTH CORPS,
Near Bristoe Station, Va., August 30, 1863.
Maj. Gen. O. O. HOWARD,
Commanding Eleventh Corps.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit to you the following report of the part taken by this division in the battle of Gettysburg, on July 1, 2, and 3:
July 1, early in the morning, we marched from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg. When about 5 miles from the latter place, I received your order to push on as fast as possible. General Reynolds had attacked the enemy, and had himself fallen. The First and Third Divisions, which were in advance of my command, were sent forward to support the First Corps.
At about 2 o'clock I arrived with my division near Gettysburg, and was ordered to occupy Cemetery Hill, where I found the reserve artillery of our corps in position. This hill is situated near the south end of Gettysburg, at the junction of the turnpikes leading to Baltimore and Emmitsburg. Toward the east and south, low ranges connect with it, while toward the north and west a belt of open fields from 1 to 2 miles in width extends along the whole length of these hills, forming a slightly depressed valley, beyond which the ground again rises into a series of broken elevations.
Cemetery Hill is the commanding point of the whole position, and its occupation by our troops had a decisive influence upon the further progress and the final result of the battle. When I arrived upon it, the First Corps and the First and Third Divisions of our corps were engaged with the enemy on the open fields below. I placed the First Brigade, Col. Charles R. Coster, on the northeast end of the hill, in support of Wiedrich's battery, which was then in position. The Second Brigade, Col. Orland Smith, took a position toward the northwest, supporting the reserve artillery of our corps. Colonel Coster threw forward one regiment as skirmishers in front of his position, and another one into a large stone church and the surrounding houses in town, in order to prevent the enemy's sharpshooters from annoying our artillery.
Shortly after this position had been taken, General Schurz sent an order for re-enforcements, and soon afterward another order to dispatch one brigade upon a reconnaissance upon the York road, whence Ewell's corps was expected to debouch. At this time, however, heavy columns of the enemy approached on the York road, which left no doubt that Ewell had arrived, and was upon the point of taking part in the conflict.
This arrival rendered the enemy's forces so strong that they outnumbered our troops very largely. The final issue of the engagement could no longer be doubtful, especially as the enemy had also the formation of the ground in his favor.
General Schurz at this crisis sent again for re-enforcements, and I ordered Colonel Coster to advance with his brigade through the town, to report to General Schurz. The Second Brigade I left on the hill, changing their position so as to support all the batteries upon the same, and fill With two regiments the place vacated by the First Brigade.
Colonel Coster met General Schurz in town, who ordered him to take a position north and east of Gettysburg, and to check the advance of the enemy, who were pressing for Gettysburg, and before whose overwhelming numbers the First and Third Divisions were forced to fall back. Colonel Coster had a severe engagement with the advancing enemy, but was, of course, not strong enough to restore the battle. He therefore ordered his men also to fall back, and again took up his position on Cemetery Hill, leaving one regiment to occupy the nearest brick houses of the town, which successfully prevented the farther advance of the enemy.
My division was now again in nearly the same position which it occupied at first. The other two divisions also took position on Cemetery Hill. Our position now was quite strong, the infantry being placed partly behind stone fences, and forming with our batteries a front fully able to resist an attack of even greatly superior forces. The occupation of this hill by our corps had great influence upon the further progress and the final result of the battle.
July 2.--The morning passed off quietly, while the other corps of our army arrived on the battle-field.
At about 4 p.m. the enemy's batteries opened a heavy fire upon our position, which lasted for two hours. This was particularly severe upon Cemetery Hill, as we were exposed here to a concentrated fire from nine batteries. Our artillery vigorously replied, and silenced several of the enemy's pieces. Our infantry was posted behind stone fences surrounding the hill, and suffered but little from the enemy's artillery.
My division formed the left wing of the corps, fronting north, excepting the Thirty-third Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, who were detailed to support General Ames' brigade, on the right, fronting northeast.
At about 9 p.m. the Louisiana Brigade (Tigers) made a vigorous charge upon the First Brigade of my division, and Wiedrich s battery. Colonel Coster's brigade, and particularly the Twenty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Cantador, repulsed them.
Several rebels succeeded in reaching Wiedrich's battery, but were driven back by the cannoneers themselves.
During the night, the skirmishers of Colonel Smith's brigade were attacked several times, but succeeded in repelling the enemy every time.
July 3.--During this day the battle raged principally on the right and left wings of our army; my division, occupying, with slight changes, the same position as the day before, was not attacked.
At 2.30 o'clock the enemy again opened a terrific artillery fire upon our hill, which lasted until 4 p.m.
In regard to our loss, I would respectfully refer to the report previously forwarded. The First Brigade lost heavily; the Second Brigade had during the last two days over 300 men killed and wounded, principally of the Seventy-third Ohio Volunteers, by the enemy's sharpshooters, who fired from several buildings of the town at a great distance but with remarkable accuracy.
The division behaved gallantly, repelling every attack of the enemy, and standing unmoved under the heavy artillery fire of the last two battle days.
The commanders of my two brigades--Col. Orland Smith, Seventy-third Ohio Volunteers, and Col. Charles R. Coster, One hundred and thirty-fourth New York Volunteers--have assisted me very materially, both executing my orders with zeal, and exposing themselves freely. They have shown themselves able and gallant soldiers.
Of my staff I can also speak in terms of praise. Capt. F. W. Stowe, assistant adjutant-general of this division, was on the last day severely wounded in the head by a piece of shell.
Very respectfully, yours,
A. VON STEINWEHR,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
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